Opera: ‘Anna Nicole’ makes her first big appearance

17 Feb

Anna Nicole Smith (pictured above) is the latest in a long, long  line of  operatic femmes fatales. She’s not the first real character to have (a version of) her life fashioned into an art as supposedly grandiose as opera: but even the briefest of online searches can demonstrate why this face could fit alongside such legendary leading ladies as Carmen, Lulu,  Delilah and Salome.

It’s not just the face that fascinates. Popular appearances in a well-known men’s magazine led to Ms. Smith’s crowned as the 1993 Playmate of the Year. She followed that up with her first big movie role (in The Naked Gun 33 and 1/3) marriage to a much older (and richer) man, celebrity status, reality shows and a number of tragic deaths…including her own.

Hot on the heels of tube adverts advising us of ‘extreme language’, ‘drug abuse’ and ‘sexual content’ the initial run of Anna Nicole will begin today at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. The culturally interested and the curious bystander will flock from far and wide to see what happens. The omens are good: many of the biggest names in contemporary opera and music theatre are involved.

Another of the tag-lines from that tube poster is The Party Always Ends. My guess is that many folks will turn up for the party bit… but it’s the Ending, and the agony that surrounds Anna Nicole’s life that draws focus for me. Can the British writing team come up with words and music that will allow her character to seduce us again? Will we want to remember her…spend more than an evening with her? And even if we know why, will we keep on asking that very question…why her?

profile pic of Dutch soprano Eva Maria Westbroek

Eva Maria Westbroek  (pictured) leads the cast in tonight’s premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s opera ‘Anna Nicole’, produced by Richard Jones at the Royal Opera.  Also: Alan Oke sings as Old Man Marshall, and Gerald Finley as Lawyer Stern. The libretto is by Richard Thomas: Antonio Pappano, MD of the Royal Opera conducts the performance. More performances on Feb 21, 23 and 26/March 1 and 4.

Tags: Non Fiction


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